The Government of Liberia under President George Weah is currently in a quandary whether to continue with the conduct of the 2022 National Population and Housing Census that has been hijacked by corruption, incompetence, lack of transparency and accountability or to pause and recalibrate, making the country a laughingstock in the subregion.
After a protracted delay of the census process because of widespread misappropriations, the exercise kicked off somehow haphazardly on 11 November under immense public pressure with enumerators boycotting and protesting over pay. Government is in a serious dilemma whether to postpone the entire exercise, which international partners are against for credibility reason.
While all of this is ongoing, President Weah, currently making rounds of foreign travels, dismissed two senior staff of the Liberia Institute for Statistics and Geo-Information Services (LISGIS) including acting director-general Wilmot Smith, who has been at the center of uncontrollable improprieties at the Institute.
Vice President Jewel Howard Taylor disclosed last week at MICAT press briefing in Monrovia
that government budgeted US$22 million to ensure successful conduct of the census, covering salary, tablets, car rentals, and fuel, among others.
According to VP Taylor, government had an initial obligation of 37 million United States Dollars (US$37 Million) which they have paid in full, which is in addition to millions contributed by friendly governments and other international partners.
The real issue is not about lack of fund to conduct the census, but poor handling of taxpayers’ monies from abroad and from in the country by those placed at LISGIS to carry out the job. Both the Executive and the Legislative branches of government are pampering and directly condoning the broad day stealing at the statistics house at the detriment of the country’s future.
Therefore, in the absence of an accountable head at LISGIS, a census process is being forced down the throats of Liberians, while its outcome is already being doubted even before it will be released to the public. Trust and reliability, two key ingredients of any data collecting process has been eroded, given the way the guys at LISGIS have proceeded.
We may end up with a census result that would be far different from actual facts on the ground because the current exercise is found wanting in all intents and purposes, primarily because somebody has taken the Liberian people business as a private endeavor, compromising full disclosure.
Worst of all, the ruling CDC-led Legislature on Capitol Hill has turned a blind eye, playing partisanship with such crucial matter like census, all because of selfish and narrowminded loyalty.
The actual victims of such poor governance marred by incompetence, corruption and insincerity are the Liberian people, who may never get to know the accurate size of their population even as they gear up for presidential and general elections in 2023, all because round peg in a square hole presided over the process for personal gains.